Taking action towards living a healthy lifestyle and making better health choices is a lifelong decision. This week we will be looking at the quantity of our food intake and the factors we need to consider when deciding when is ‘enough’ enough. We will be talking about your daily food intake, metabolism and calculating what your body needs to sustain itself throughout the day. We will continue the argument we started previously – what does a balanced eating plan look like for me? See article.

As stated in the question above – a critical element is – ‘… for me’. Each person has different energy needs every day which is influenced by many factors. Once you have examined these and asked yourself honest and straightforward questions, you should be able to provide yourself with a framework of a healthy eating plan. 

It is a simple concept: the food you eat daily should be enough to give you the energy to do your daily tasks. Eat more than you need, and you will gain weight. Eat less, and your body will use stored energy (yes, fat) to keep you going. (This is where calories and portion sizes come to play… but we will discuss these next week).

It is also very important to state that the effect of the choices you make today regarding your food intake might not affect you right away, but later in life, when your body is older when malnutrition (overeating OR undereating) could affect your mobility and health. Your decisions today are therefore critical for your future wellbeing.

Before you can construct a healthy eating plan, there are critical factors that you should consider regarding your ability to burn calories – which we will focus on in this article.

Your Age

The older we get, the fewer calories we burn daily. Ever tried to keep up with a group of four-year-olds playing in the park/playground/jungle gym… most adults will struggle regardless of their fitness level. Your age and your ability to burn the energy you consume daily are thus a critical part of deciding on the eating plan that is right for you.

Your Activity Level

The more activities you include in your day, the more energy you need – simple, right? The more physically demanding your day, the more you need to eat. 

Your Metabolic Rate

The Basal Metabolic Rate is a term used to express a number (the rate) at which you burn calories to perform basic life-sustaining functions. These functions include keeping your heart beating, producing cells, respiration, maintaining body temperature, circulating blood through your veins, and processing the food you eat – the basics. This is calculated by taking your age, weight, height and gender into consideration.

Your Body Composition

Body composition refers to the amount of muscle you have in your body. Those with more muscles burn more calories daily. Building muscle (as argued before) is so important. It supports the body in many ways and helps you burn more calories. Is that not a critical argument to exercise!

Your Body Size

Larger people burn more calories than smaller people (even when they are sleeping). That is why your height is considered when calculating BMR.

Thermogenesis

The term thermogenesis is derived from the Greek word thermos which means heat. In simple terms, thermogenesis refers to your body’s ability to produce energy (heat) in direct response to a meal. It includes all the metabolic processes involved in ingesting, digesting, and processing food and the effect of food (TEF). ‘Burning’ calories makes sense now, right? 

In a Nutshell

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle depends on many choices we must make daily. These choices include your food intake and the activities we choose to include in your day: eating and exercising. Within these two categories, there are a multitude of decisions we need to make. 

There are three simple statements that should form the basis of your health decisions: 

  1. Move more when you eat more – use the energy you consume because if you do not, the body will store it.
  2. Give your body the resources (nutrients) it needs to be healthy – eat what you need to sustain and maintain a healthy body, not just for now but for your future health as well.
  3. Rest – allow the body to allow the ‘restore machines’ to work effectively by getting enough sleep (we will discuss the impact of a healthy sleeping pattern in a future article)

How much is too much (in other words)? Analyse your lifestyle, make the choices that will enhance your health and stay focused. You are the only person who can decide to make your health a priority.

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